The spectacular Corn Islands
24/01/2014 - 31/03/2014 30 °C
Our last destination in Nicaragua turned out to be the absolute highlight of our 6 week stay in the country.
The Corn Islands are located roughly 70km off Nicaragua's eastern caribbean coast. Getting there involves either a quick trip in a small plane from Managua, or a grueling bus and overnight on a ship. Considering all of the tedious overland traveling we had had thus far, a flight seemed like a fun novelty. La Costeña airlines flies into Big Corn Island, for $160 return, where an open panga/speedboat connects to Little Corn Island, our intended destination.
This is what a panga boat looks like. Slightly smaller than our ferry.
We were fortunate enough to take this 45min panga trip on what would be considered "borderline conditions", ie almost not operating. As we left the shelter of Big Corn's harbour and the twin 200hp outboards began to stretch, Amber and I, along with the other passengers in the front 4 rows, found ourselves regularly airborne off triple overhead swell and getting hit in the face with buckets of spray. It was hilarious, for the first 10 min. Screaming and hysterics were replaced with silence when the realisation set in that there was another 30 minutes plus of this beating to go, and we were already completely saturated from head to toe. Thankfully it was luke warm water and the luggage was stored in dry areas on the boat. We had read in other blogs that the crossing can be a little hairy, and that back injuries are not that uncommon for passengers being slammed back into their seats after launching off the back of waves. My favourite memory was of the lanky German sitting directly in front of me getting completely airborne while taking a swig of his beer bottle. That thing was stuck to his lips the whole way up and down and he had nothing to hold onto. The panic and indecision in his eyes were priceless. I still can't believe he didn't lose a tooth!
Once in the shelter of Little Corn's harbour, we pulled up at the dock, happy to have survived, and were greeted by locals shouting hotel names, with a wheelbarrow in hand ready to carry our luggage, and saying "welcome to paradise".
Little Corn is only 2.9sqkm in area and there are about 1200 people that live on the island, the majority of which are English-speaking Creole of mixed black (and pirate) heritage. Quite a divergence from mainland Nicaragua, to whom the locals refer to as “the Spaniards”.
Try speaking Creole for yourself. For best results, read out aloud to a friend.
Electricity on the island is sporadic and officially runs from 1pm to 5am, which means no major sleep-ins as once the fan stops spinning things get pretty sticky. One lovely thing about the island is that there are no cars or motorized vehicles of any kind, just wheelbarrows and bicycles. What food is not grown on the island is shipped in fresh, weekly on a cargo ship. It really is a little slice of paradise, with the real feeling that it is isolated from the rest of the world.
Lobster and fishing are the biggest industry on the island, although perhaps that has now been taken over by tourism as the secret starts to spread. $10 for a delicious whole lobster steamed simply & served with rice was such a treat.
That, coupled with white sand beaches, turquoise water, dense green jungle, an abundance of coconut trees and friendly folk made for one of the most authentic island experiences one could hope for.
At Farm Peace & Love we met two enormous dogs. A bull mastiff & great dane.
Perfect conditions for stand up paddle boarding. As soon as Brendan hired the board these two local kids climbed aboard & ordered him to paddle. This went on for about 10 minutes until they capsized and Brendan got away!
Another side note - Brendan's wedding ring fell off whilst boarding, he managed to come back to shore, grab a snorkel, re-trace his steps and find it amongst the sea grass....WHAT!
Whilst on the island we decided to put our newly learnt diving skills to the test and ventured out for both a day & a night dive. The day dive was beautiful with water that was so warm we didn’t even need a full wetsuit. There was an abundance of nurse sharks, bright coral, colourful fish and an ambling green sea turtle. The night dive turned out to be the highlight though. It was slightly creepy jumping into pitch-black water and finding your way around with a little torch. There was a very curious nurse shark that literally followed us around for the entire 40 minutes (I get the feeling he was waiting for us to pick out fish with our torches so hence an easy supper for him). Towards the end of the dive we all came together and turned off our torches so we were enveloped in darkness in order for the bioluminescence to show itself. It was like swimming through stars. We swam in complete darkness for around 15 minutes with the silhouettes of our fellow divers illuminated by the flashing pulses of little, vivid green lights. Once on the surface we were all buzzing by what we had just experienced.
We didn't take any photos of our own down there, but here's something we stole from the net to give you an idea of what it was like
The other highlight of our time in Nicaragua was the RUM. It is ubiquitous, it is cheap and it is very, very tasty. Flor de Cana (flower of the sugar cane) 7 year old was THE drink of choice during our stay. Mixed with soda water and fresh lime, on the rocks with lime or straight up, you cannot go wrong. The Mystica cocktail, introduced to us in Ometepe, was made with soda, lime and passionfruit pulp. This will certainly feature in our cocktail repertoire when we get home. Running at about $70 per 700ml in Australia, i doubt we will be drinking much more of it (at least not in the same quantity). In Nicaragua we would buy a huge 1.75L bottle for $30.